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October 14, 2016

Guest Post - Lignum Vitae, Tree of Life - Bish Denham + Giveaway

Thanks for letting me take over your blog, Chrys! Today I’m going to share with you and your readers something about a very special tree.

Lignum vitae, which means tree of life or wood of life, is a slow growing tree the wood of which is so heavy it can’t float. It has been used for many things, including gears and bearings for clocks and shaft bearings in ships and hydro-electric power plants.

Cricket balls, skittles balls, and croquet mallets have been made from it as well was as belaying pins (used for securing lines) and deadeyes (used in standing and running rigging) on sailing ships like the USS Constitution.

Pete Seeger, the folk singer, made the neck of his banjo out of it. In T. H. White’s book The Once and Future King, Merlin’s wand comes from the lignum vitae. And in Bleak House, Charles Dickens refers to his character Matthew Bagnet as lignum vitae “…in compliment to the extreme hardness and toughness of his physiognomy.”

I have my grandmother mortar and pestle (probably near 100 years old) which has been used so long the pestle is worn and the interior of the mortar is shiny and smooth.

Image by Bish

Lignum vitae is still so popular that it is now endangered.

This lignum vitae, in Cruz Bay St. John is well over 100 years old.

Image by Bish

This one on St. Thomas is probably about 200 years old.

Image by Bish

In my book, The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, the lignum vitae symbolizes the enduring relationship between of the four main characters, Sam and her best friend Nick, Trumps, and the ghost that haunts them.

Book Blurb:

Pirates. Explorers. And spooky ghost hunters.

It’s 1962. Sam and her best friend, Nick, have the whole island of St. John, in the U. S. Virgin Islands, as their playground. They’ve got 240-year-old sugar plantation ruins to explore, beaches to swim, and trails to hike.

But when a man disappears like a vapor right in front of them, they must confront a scary new reality. They’re being haunted. By whom? And why? He’s even creeping into Nick’s dreams.

They need help, but the one who might be able to give it is Trumps, a reclusive hunchback who doesn’t like people, especially kids. Are Sam and Nick brave enough to face him? And if they do, will he listen to them? 

As carefree summer games turn into eerie hauntings, Sam and Nick learn more about themselves and life than they could ever have imagined.

Available now at:

About the Author:

Bish Denham, whose mother’s side of the family has been in the Caribbean for over one hundred years, was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. She still has lots of family living there whom she visits regularly.

She says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. The ruins of hundreds of sugar plantations, built with the sweat and blood of slave labor, litter the islands. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. It is within this atmosphere of wonder and mystery, that I grew up. Life for me was magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic.”

The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, is her third book and second novel. You can find Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Tales and A Lizard’s Tail, at

To learn more about Bish, you can visit her blog, Random Thoughts.
She can also be found on Facebook
Twitter @BishDenham

a Rafflecopter giveaway


nashvillecats2 said...

A wonderful post about "The Tree of Life". so very interesting to read.

Pat Hatt said...

So much can be made when the imagination takes hold. I never knew there was wood that was so heavy it sinks, whoops, now I do haha.

Nick Wilford said...

Sounds like tough stuff. I can see how it would be well used as a metaphor.

Bish Denham said...

Thanks, Nashvillecats! It's one of my favorite trees.

Bish Denham said...

Another little bit of trivia to astonish your friends with, Pat! Thanks for stopping by.

Bish Denham said...

Nick, It's very hard, heavy, and bug resistant. And, when polished, a lovely color.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That works against it that it's slow growing. Hard to replace what is harvested.

sherry fundin said...

I love trees and am always taking photos of them. I have been to St Thomas and seeing that the tree is near the water, I probably took a photo of it. I will be checking my albums. Thanks for the great giveaway.
sherry @ fundinmental

Bish Denham said...

Exactly, Alex!

Bish Denham said...

Sherry, they can grow near the ocean. Perhaps, if you strolled through Emancipation Gardens on St. Thomas near the waterfront, you saw them. There many of them growing in the park.

sage said...

I love the insight into the tree, ligmun vitae.

Birgit said...

I did not know about this tree and sad that, once again, we are endangering something that has been around for centuries. Your book excerpt is intriguing especially with the ghosts

Sheena-kay Graham said...

That was a great look at the Ligmun vitae. Congrats on your book.

Bish Denham said...

And is the name, the way it sound, beautiful as well? Thanks for stopping by, Sage.

Bish Denham said...

Yes, it is sad, Bright. If they grew faster it wouldn't be a problem. But they're dense because they grow so slowly.

Bish Denham said...

Thanks, Sheena-kay!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chrys - what fun to find Bish here: lovely story of her pestle and mortar - a treasure ... while the information on the Lignum Vitae tree is just such a great read ... thank you ... totally suitable to hold your characters together ... cheers Hilary

cleemckenzie said...

So interesting to read about this tree and how it ties in with your story! Lovely.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Chrys, nice to see Bish here. Good luck Bish with your book, its sounds lovely!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

We are tree huggers, so this post is even more important. Hi Bish. Thanks for sharing this fascinating information. I had no idea.

Liz A. said...

I'd never heard of this tree. Too bad it's endangered.

J.H. Moncrieff said...

Sounds like a great book. I love the setting.

Thanks for the tree story. Sad that it's endangered. I wish more people had an appreciation and love for our environment.